Dubai is very welcoming to tourists and ex-pats and this translates into a pretty liberal dress code for visitors, especially in hotels and tourist hangouts.
However, some universal rules exist.
What to wear in Dubai depends largely on where you are and the activity you are doing (see below). As a start, when packing for Dubai it is useful to go by the following principles:
Dress conservative – Dubai is a Muslim country and this calls for modest attire for women.
‘Modest’ is a rather lose concept and, as a general rule, it means to skip anything overly short (skirts and shorts), avoid revealing tops with plunging necklines, see through attire and anything too form fitting.
Below the knee skirts, linen trousers, maxi dresses, T-shirts and blouses all work well.
The rules for tourists re not super strict especially in places such as restaurants and the Dubai Mall however – later in this article we describe how and when you can stray a little from the strictest Dubai stress code (and when not to!).
Light and breathable – Dubai is hot pretty much all year round (find info on Dubai weather here) and even in winter you want to have clothes that are light and breathable.
Pretty – ok so there is no rule about dressing pretty in Dubai but people here dress so fabulously, you will want to have your best dress on!
While for sightseeing you will want to be comfortable, in the evening you will find it hard to be overdressed so if you love glitter, nice party dresses and heels to go to the restaurant or an international hotel, in Dubai you can go for it!
What do women wear in Dubai? Traditional Emirati clothing you may see in Dubai
As well as what you can wear in Dubai, it may be interesting to know about the local clothing.
Some useful terms to know about traditional Emirati clothing you will see while visiting Dubai are:
Abaya – an item of women’s clothing, it is a long, black cloak for women that covers the body to the wrists and ankle but leaves exposed face, hands and feet.
Hijab or Shayla– the veil women use to cover hair, ears and neck
Kandura or Dishdasha is a long robe for men, usually white in color
Ghutrah is a white headscarf worn by men and it is usually kept in place by an agal, a black band securing it around the head
You can find all the info on traditional Emirati clothing here
What to pack for Dubai: Dubai clothing essentials
For comfort and style, good things to pack for Dubai are:
- Summer dresses
- Summer skirts
- Linen trousers/ harem pants
- Nice dress for evening
- Summer tops
- Shawl for air conditioning/ chillier days / extra coverage when needed
- Walking sandals
- Flip flops for the beach
- Heels for an evening outfit
- Day/night handbag
- Swimsuit (see below for style)
- Sun hat
- Swimming coverup
What to pack for Dubai in winter: winter clothing must-have for Dubai
Dubai doesn’t get cold but between November and February has chillier days that may requite extra layers.
For this time, make sure you add to your Dubai packing list:
- Light jacket
What to wear for sightseeing in Dubai
Sightseeing in Dubai will lead you to different parts of the city that require different dress codes.
In Old Dubai, Dubai historical district, Dubai Souks and markets as well as and all off the beaten path locations or religious establishments, it is important to be covered up.
Longer skirts, linen trousers and tops that cover the shoulders are best. Special rules apply for visiting Mosques in Dubai (see below)
In Dubai Mall and to see the Burj Khalifa and the most touristy part of Dubai, the dress code is more relaxed and you can wear (almost) whatever you want.
Good items to pack for sightseeing in Dubai are:
Comfy shoes / walking sandals: I adore walking sandals from Teva, which are my favorite for women and men and work super well also as travel shoes for kids.
Linen Trousers – a huge resource for travel as they are comfortable, stylish, breathable and pack super light, so you can have several with your without having to stuff your suitcase!
Short sleeve tops that cover the shoulders – short sleeve tops and blouses that cover the shoulders are perfect for sightseeing in Dubai and strike a good balance between style, comfort and being appropriate
A shawl – I learned to bring seals with me all the time growing up in Rome, where you may need them to enter a church while wearing a summer outfit. A nice shawl occupies little space and can be a fashion statement as well as super handy as extra coverage.
A Crossbody bag – I find crossbody bags the best type of bag for travel: stylish and safe, make sure you have one the is big enough for you essentials but not too big you suffer carrying it around.
What to wear at Dubai Mosque
When visiting Dubai Mosque it is important to be aware of the specific dress-code for these religious establishments.
To visit a Mosque you cannot wear shorts (this applies to men too) and will want to cover legs and arms with lose fitting clothing. Women will be asked to wear a veil that they can borrow right before entering. Should your attire not be suitable, long dresses you can wear on top of yours will be offered.
Shoes are not allowed.
What to wear at Dubai Mall, Burj Khalifa and Dubai Fountains – Dubai Mall dress code
Dubai Mall is a huge attraction for tours and a popular hand out for local families.
In terms of dress code, this means you have a good bit of freedom about what you wear as long as it stays appropriate for the presence of children and their parents.
In Dubai Mall you can wear skirts, sleeveless tops and shorts as long as not ridiculously short (if they leave out half of you derrière’s, that’s a no!)
In Dubai Mall you cannot wear bikinis / swimsuits, low cut tops, see-through clothes and anything too form-fitting.
You should also avoid hoodies and tops with potentially offensive slogans. Pleas note that this applies to men and women. It goes without saying (maybe) that you cannot go shirtless.
(Have you been to Rome? These are the exact same rules that apply to visit the Vatican!)
What to wear on Dubai beaches and pools
You are likely to spend at least some time in Dubai wither at the beach or at the pool in which case you may be wondering: can I wear bikinis in Dubai? And how about speedos?
As a general rule yes, you can wear a bikini on Dubai beaches.
It is good to know however that in Dubai there are both private and public beaches and the style and rules differ between the two.
Private beaches part of hotels tend to be more liberal while public beaches it depends.
On private beaches in Dubai, you can wear bikinis (no g strings) while on public beaches you may want to keep in mind the people around you.
If you are on a beach with many local families, you may want to opt for a one-piece swimsuit (local women may be very covered up for entering water and ore modest attire may be more comfortable for you and them)
Men can wear all types of swimsuits.
Men and women must avoid see-through pieces and going topless for women or hanging around in a swimsuit away from the beach is a definite no.
What to wear for Dubai brunches and dinners
Brunch is a big deal in Dubai and, if you are here on a Friday afternoon, chances are you will want to participate in one.
The dress code for Dubai brunches depends on the hotel that holds them, some of them being rater casual, other more formal (and in some cases themed).
Check the website of the venue for dress code details for the day but, in general, plan for a nice outfit, even if coming from the pool (you cannot go to brunch in a swimsuit or a swim cover-up nor barefoot).
When it comes to dinner, the dress code will depend on your restaurant of choice but it is good to know that people in Dubai like to glam up so, in doubt, dress up!
What to wear for a Dubai desert safari
A Dubai desert safari is a long, hot, sandy affair and you want to be dressed as comfortably as possible for it.
Linen pants, harem pants, breathable tops and comfrotabe shoes ae your best friend. If opting for a tour that stretched into the evening or an ovenright experience, take into account that evening in the desert can get chilly – bring an extra layer.
Like for all other activities in Dubai, avoid very short pants and skirts and anything with plunging necklines, see though materials or clinging to your body. again, all this applies to men and women.
Full Dubai Packing list for all seasons – clothing
Now that you have the basics, let’s get stuck into our Dubai packing list!
- Short-sleeve tops
- Below the knee skirts/summer dresses
- Linen trousers / harem pants / jumpsuits
- A shawl to cover your shoulders when needed
- An extra layer (carding, light jacket) for evening gin the desert of the winter months
- Nice evening outfit
- Comfortable walking sandals/shoes
- Heels for the evening
- Flip flops for the beach or pool
- Swimming cover up
- Underwear and socks
- Accessories: ties, necklaces, earring etc
What to pack for Dubai – toiletries
If you are looking for a new toiletry bag for travel, you may like this one with pretty compartments and a handy hanging hook.
- Shower gel
- Dental Kit
- Hydrating cream for face and body
- After sun lotion
- Comb and brush
- Hair ties
- Shaving set
- Female Hygiene Products
- Travel first aid kit
- Essential medicines and prescription – please note: Dubai has pretty strict rules about medications entering the country. If you need prescription medications, make sure you have appropriate documentation to support why you are carrying it.
What to pack for Dubai – tech and docs
- Phone and phone charger
- Dubai travel adapter
- Portable power bank
- Ipad / tablet if using
- All necessary documents to enter / leave Dubai including passport, visa, health certs (if required)
- Bank card
- Document wallet
What to pack for Dubai with kids – family gear to add to your Dubai packing list
If visiting Dubai with kids, make sure you pack:
- Good kids travel shoes
- All kids essentials for summer travel, especially sunglasses, kids sunscreen, sun hat, shorts, swimming gear and rash guard
- How weather baby carrier
- An easy to fold stroller for the plane/ taxi rides